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Healing Kitchen

Flavorful Foods Pack a Selenium Wallop
Named after Selene, the goddess of the moon, selenium is an essential trace mineral that is necessary for maintaining a host of bodily functions: normal thyroid function, cardiac function, immune function, pancreatic function, and tissue elasticity. This marvelous mineral may also have the ability to improve sperm production and motility, as well as prevent cataracts and macular degeneration. And if that weren't enough, selenium also acts as a potent antioxidant, both as a part of an enzyme called glutathione peroxidase, as well as in a synergistic relationship with the antioxidant vitamin E. (As a beneficial side effect of its relationship with vitamin E, if you take in enough selenium, you will reduce your need for vitamin E.)

Because it's a mineral, selenium cannot be produced by the body and must be taken in through diet. Luckily, the foods that are high in selenium are also flavorful and satisfying foods: Selenium is found in substantial quantities in Brazil nuts, tunafish, oysters, flounder, turkey, chicken, wheat germ, brown rice, oatmeal, eggs, sunflower seeds, shrimp, and garlic (depending upon the soil).

The Recipes
With all of the hearty and flavorful ingredients out there high in selenium, it was not difficult to dream up selenium-rich recipes. In Shrimp Cocktail with Thai Banana Salsa, shrimp are the star ingredient. Gently cooked shrimp, served over a mound of cool and spicy banana salsa, are chock full of selenium: The shrimp alone provide nearly 100% of the recommended daily intake, so the fact that bananas have selenium, too, is a bonus. The salsa is so good you'll want to have it around to dip tortilla chips into or to serve with grilled chicken or vegetables.

Like shrimp, both chicken and tuna supply mega amounts of selenium. In my restaurant chefing days, vitello tonnato (veal in a creamy tuna sauce) was a popular warm weather item. Chicken Tonnato, made with chicken instead of veal, is healthier and just as tasty. Don't be put off by what seems like an odd combination of foods; it's really delicious. Roast a batch of peppers, grill some small new potatoes, and you've got a great buffet dinner.

The third recipe, Wheatberry Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing, might seem somewhat esoteric, but the wheatberries have selenium and I couldn't resist the opportunity to combine their chewiness with amazingly-high-in-selenium Brazil nuts. A small nibble of this nut will provide enough selenium to last the day and then some. For the salad, grains of wheat are cooked until tender but still chewy. Tossed with a honey-lime dressing and paired with cherry tomatoes, dried cranberries, and Brazil nuts, the salad is an interesting combination of textures and flavors. If you'd like to turn this into a main dish, add some feta or goat cheese, fresh spinach or watercress, toss and enjoy.

Author: Sandra Rose Gluck
Date Published: 05/01/2000
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